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Racial Slurs: Why Was Hulk Hogan Fired if He Has a Contract?

You may know him as Terry Bollea, but to any kid growing up in 1980’s America, you knew him as Hulk Hogan.  To any boy born in the 70’s, Hulkamania was as awesome as when the Death Star was destroyed in Star Wars.  Maybe not as cool as Top Gun, but definitely up there.

As a grown up, you know what isn’t cool?  Racial slurs.

You know what is a quicker character killer than a racial slur? When you make a racial slur about who your daughter is having sex with in the middle of your own sex tape… and so goes the remnants of Hulk Hogan’s career and legacy.

What Happened?

Welcome to the digital age.Hulk Hogan  Its a world where everyone gets burned by something they said at some point or another.  This is because drunken whispers at a cocktail party never go away – because we don’t whisper anymore.  We make videos with our iPhones.  We send emails, text messages, and Tweets.

Remember that time when so and so did that crazy thing… I don’t, but Instagram does.  So does Facebook. Google will never forget.

Eight years ago Hulk Hogan was allegedly enjoying some private time with Heather Clem and a video camera when he lost it and spewed a racial slur laced rant about his daughter, her music career, and some other nonsense about her sleeping with a billionaire black man.

Blah, blah, blah… eight years pass and WWE is pissed off.

In light of his comments, WWE has now removed all mention of Hulk Hogan from its enterprise and summarily fired him.  It then released the following statement:

“WWE terminated its contract with Terry Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan). WWE is committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide.”

And so it goes.  Contract over. Money pipeline turned off.  Legacy destroyed.

What About Hogan’s Contract?

Many are wondering how he could get fired if he has a contract with WWE.  What is the value of a contract if it can’t be enforced? Why can’t Hulk Hogan sue WWE?

There are many angles to approach this issue, but all require some speculation because we don’t have the actual written terms of the contract to analyze.  That said, here are some thoughts:

First of all, Hulk Hogan may have an “at-will” agreement with WWE.  When a person has “at-will” employment, they are typically paid a salary and other benefits, but the employer retains the right to terminate the employment at any time for “any reason or no reason at all” so long as it isn’t a legally prohibited reason – such as for bias relating to race, age, sexual orientation, disability, etc.

Even if the Hulk didn’t have an “at-will” employment agreement, his contract may have had an “ethics clause.” Such clauses address the employer’s recourse for bad behavior.  For instance, an employer of a high profile person like an actor, musician, athlete, or other popular person may retain protection in the event the employee gets arrested, does something outrageous, or otherwise causes harm to the company’s image.

With an ethics clause, an employer may have the right to terminate the employment summarily.

In this case, Hogan does not deny making the statements.  In fact, he not only admitted making the rants on the Howard Stern Show, but he also issued the following apology:

“Eight years ago I used offensive language during a conversation. It was unacceptable for me to have used that offensive language; there is no excuse for it; and I apologize for having done it. This is not who I am. I believe very strongly that every person in the world is important and should not be treated differently based on race, gender, orientation, religious beliefs or otherwise. I am disappointed with myself that I used language that is offensive and inconsistent with my own beliefs.”

Hulk Hogan is also suing Gawker for publishing the sex tape.  Ironically, to take the case to trial, Hogan will have to publish the sex tape into the public record by admitting into evidence.  To accomplish this without blowing himself up, Hogan’s attorneys have filed a motion to exclude certain evidence from the public and the media.  However, this situation is developing.

Final Word

I think white America is learning real fast that black lives matter.  It isn’t about being politically correct – because most normal people like to say “fuck” and argue with their friends in ways that are insulting and vulgar.  It is about core respect for fellow humans – black, white, disabled, gay, whatever.

Police and law enforcement are learning they just can’t beat up on poor, voiceless black people anymore.  Corporate America is learning it can’t shit on minorities, people in wheelchairs, or women who get pregnant.  The religious right is learning that two men, two women, and transsexual citizens have the right to marry whoever the hell they want and that their marriages are as valid, sanctioned, and legitimate as ones performed in a church.

The Hulk Hogan case is yet another iteration of the substantive change that is reverberating through American culture at this precise moment in time.  The notion that black lives matter isn’t a movement about allowing violent criminals to kill police.  That is insane.  It is about making a fundamental change in the way our society behaves – not only in public, but also in private when its just you, your lady, and a handy video camera… ahum.

Ultimately, this is about all of us becoming a more sophisticated and evolved people.  Respecting each other enough not to be associated with slurs that are based strictly on the concentration of melanocytes in a person’s epidermis is where our society is headed, if we are to become a truly advanced civilization.

With its decision to let Hulk Hogan go, WWE is taking a step forward in strengthening America’s intolerance for intolerance… and I think that is a good thing.